Decadent sweeties for Christmas

Christmas pudding & wine (Photo: Burtree Puddings)

Christmas pudding – decadently rich, rib-stickingly raisin-sweet, slathered with brandy butter, custard, cream or ice-cream – or all of the above.

Yes, it’s a dessert wholly unsuited to Australia’s often hot Christmas weather, but a lot of us have it just the same.

The best wine to serve with Christmas pudding is something of commensurate richness and sweetness, capable of balancing it. Old Rutherglen muscat or topaque (formerly tokay), and Riverina botrytis semillon spring immediately to mind. The Riverina wines are unfortified sweet whites which truly deserve the epithet ‘sticky’. Indeed, they can sometimes be too much of a good thing. But not with Christmas pud.

I recently tasted a number of sweet wines, the Riverina ably represented by a number of remarkably inexpensive botrytis wines. De Bortoli Deen Vat Series No. 5 2013 is less than AUD $14 a half (they’re all half-bottles); Berton Vineyard 2016 is AUD $17, Willandra Estate Autumn Leaf Botrytis NV is AUD $15, then a bit higher in price and quality rating were Mino & Co A Grower’s Touch 2014 (AUD $25) and R. Paulazzo 2014 (AUD $28) – the last a delicious golden wine loaded with smoky, toffee, honey and floral nuances and boasting luscious palate flavour. But you have to buy it from Naked Wines.

From outside the Riverina, there were two gorgeous stickies: 2017 Geoff Hardy K1 Autumn Harvest Riesling (AUD $25) and 2016 Foxeys Hangout Late Harvest Pinot Gris (AUD $28). The Geoff Hardy is a pristine wine bursting with gorgeous, honeyed late-picked riesling aromas and just 8.5% alcohol.

In the fortifieds, Rutherglen Estates – unusually in Rutherglen, better known for table wines than fortifieds – has a very good Classic Muscat (AUD $22 a half) on the market – all rosewater and raisiny lusciousness. And Stanton & Killeen’s trophy-winning Classic Rutherglen Muscat (AUD $35-$40 for 500ml) is a superbly luscious, complex blend of age and fresh fruitiness.

Finally, a botrytis wine AND an old sweet fortified all in the same bottle? In Australia, there’s only one wine that can be – De Bortoli Black Noble. This has spent an average of 10 years in wood and is AUD $28 for 500ml. Old leather, dried fruits, smoke, walnuts and much more to sniff. It’s a bit like an aged tawny port but with the higher acidity common to botrytis-affected table wines. It should be right at home with Christmas pud.

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